Project MathQuest (2006-2009) Summary

Project Team: Holly Zullo (PI), Kelly Cline (Co-PI), Mark Parker (Co-PI)

Classroom voting has emerged as a very powerful technique to improve student learning in the STEM disciplines. This method engages students by requiring every person in the class to consider a multiple choice or true/false question, to form an opinion, and to participate by electronically registering their vote. These voting events can further provide a potent way of stimulating student discussions, getting students to talk about the concepts involved, and to compare their opinions with their peers. The results of voting provide immediate feedback as to the students' level of understanding both to the instructor, and to each student when the correct answer is revealed.

As a teaching technique, classroom voting has a well-established track record of success in physics, astronomy, chemistry, biology, and more recently in mathematics. The sets of voting questions created by Cornell University's Good Questions Project, and the Harvard Calculus Consortium's ConcepTests have clearly demonstrated how effective classroom voting can be in both single and multivariable calculus.

At Carroll College, in an intimate liberal arts learning environment, the Department of Mathematics, Engineering, and Computer Science has implemented electronic classroom voting throughout its calculus classes with excellent results. To build on this, Carroll faculty members will expand the use of classroom voting into linear algebra and differential equations courses. Project Math QUEST or "Math Questions to Engage Students", will allow investigators to create the necessary curricular materials for this expansion.

Investigators will create sets of multiple choice and true/false questions, with comments to instructors, for use in differential equations and linear algebra classes. A large body of new materials has been created for linear algebra and differential equations in the past decade, integrating computer labs and other technology into these courses, as well as refocusing the curriculum on conceptual issues. Our questions will incorporate this contemporary view of these subjects, and complement the growing body of computer laboratory exercises. The sets of questions will be designed to generate discussion, expose common misconceptions, and get students to consider the key conceptual points of these topics. Throughout the three-year project timeframe, these sets of questions will be tested and evaluated after being incorporated into two courses: Differential Equations & Linear Algebra I (MA 232) and Differential Equations and Linear Algebra II (MA 334). Several voting questions will be integrated into the instructors' presentation during almost every class period, so frequent inquiries will be taking place.

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